Once upon a time, it was quite normal for kids to play in the street. Nowadays, that's primarily a recipe for disaster. But some decision-makers in Seattle have decided to make that possible again.
Actually, I just discovered that it was one of my graduate school classmates, Public Space Program Manager at Seattle Department of Transportation Jennifer Wieland, who is overseeing the new Play Streets program. The program launched a week ago, when students at St. Terese Academy had free reign on 35th Avenue, a local street, and were able to enjoy some relay races there.
“It’s about having that little extra bit of community space to do something creative,” Streetsblog USA quotes Jennifer as saying. “It’s really out of people’s desires to build community and create great neighborhoods.”
Apparently, the city already had a policy in place where residents could request that a street be closed so that they could have a "block party" or such. Over time, the frequency of such requests grew and grew. The city finally decided to create the Play Streets program, which is clearly aimed at enabling more active lifestyles in the safe environment of blocked off street.
As the program gets rolling, the city will engage in neighborhood outreach and spread the word in other ways in order to increase participation. That said, streets aren't closed by default like with Ciclovia. "In order to be granted a Play Street permit, residents will have to show that they have informed their neighbors and that there is a rough consensus around the concept."
I'll have to reach out to Jennifer to get more stories about these Play Streets as the program moves along.